Everyone knows what the three branches of the United States government are, unless you are currently serving New York’s 14th district in the House of Representatives. Intriguingly, most people are not familiar with the intricacies of our system of checks and balances, and the powers afforded to each branch by the Constitution.
Contrary to common knowledge, the powers possessed by each branch of our government today differ from the powers they had at our nation’s inception. The Founding Fathers intended for each branch of our government to check the powers of the others, so that no one branch would be supremely powerful.
They wanted the branches to be completely separate from each other. Today, this is not the case. A wave of extreme partisanship has swept over our country, threatening to alter the structure of our republic.
No longer do we have three branches of government; rather, we have the President, his supporters in Congress, and conservative Justices in a perpetual war against left-wing congressmen and liberal Justices.
The “hyperpartisanship” that has permeated across our nation is partly fueled by the increasing power of the Executive branch. This accumulation of power began more than a century ago, and has steadily expanded.
One example of this power abuse is known as the State Secret Privilege.
When properly invoked, it permits the government to block the release of any information in a lawsuit that, if disclosed, would cause harm to national security. This privilege was once a rare occurrence, but now it is used quite frequently.
In some instances, the release of information may have caused a serious national security threat, however it has been revealed that in most situations it was used to cover up the government’s illegal activity and prevent embarrassment.
In the case United States v. Reynolds, three widows filed wrongful death action against the government for the death of their husbands in a military plane crash in Georgia in 1953. An accident report was requested, but the government insisted that the report could not be disclosed because it contained information about secret military equipment that was being tested aboard the aircraft during the fatal flight.
The widows did not win the case due to insufficient evidence. Interestingly, the accident report was declassified in 2004, and it was completely devoid of information about secret military equipment. The government used the State Secret Privilege to cover up its own negligence.
Over the course of the last century, the Legislative Branch of our government has slowly ceded additional power to the Executive Branch. The most notable power given up was the ability to declare war.
The Constitution explicitly articulates that Congress has the sole power to declare war. Although the President is the Commander in Chief, he only has the power to conjure our military in the case of an invasion or civil insurrection.
President Harry S. Truman was the first president to declare war without Congress’s approval. He ordered troops into Korea with no congressional consultation. Slightly over a decade later, President Lyndon B. Johnson also violated the Constitution by sending American soldiers to Vietnam.
In response to these infractions and unrest of the American people, Congress passed the nugatory War Powers Act of 1973. The Act gave the President free rein to declare war and send troops anywhere he pleased, contingent upon him notifying Congress beforehand.
The Act also gave Congress the ability to nullify the President’s decision within 60 days of him making it, but this is an unlikely circumstance because it would be meaningless to withdraw troops already engaged in battle.
Additionally, Congress unofficially relinquished their power regarding international commerce. Again, the Constitution is extremely clear that trade is to be propagated and regulated by Congress alone.
Nevertheless, the President is the one who negotiates virtually all of our nation’s trade deals, almost always without conferring with Congress. This, of course, could be a positive or negative undertaking, depending on the sitting President’s abilities in the art of deal-making.
Good deal or not, in today’s political environment, the sitting President’s political allies in Congress will approve the deal.
The unfortunate truth that Americans face today, is that Republicans and Democrats in Congress have taken to seeing themselves as not part of a separate and competing branch of government, but as arms of their respective political parties.
Congressman Steve Israel publicly stated in 2011 that in addition to being Commander in Chief, President Obama was his “Messenger in Chief”.
When an election has commenced, Congress anticipates the direction of the new President on several topics that they should be addressing independently. For example, Presidents today have much greater influence on the national budget and legislative priorities.
Democrats and Republicans do not see the Supreme Court as neutral; instead, they see the court as a mere partisan legislator. Conservative Justices tend to uphold the ideals of the Constitution while liberal Justices argue the ideals are antiquated and need altering.
Historically, potential Justices were evaluated on judicial temperament and quality of reasoning. Justices were confirmed by the Senate with little or no opposition.
Now, potential Justices are evaluated on how they will rule on controversial issues and how closely their views align with the nominating party’s agenda. Dissenting parties announce their opposition the moment the President publicizes his nominee, and will do anything to make sure the nominee does not get confirmed.
Justices Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh were accused of despicable crimes, and nearly had their reputations and careers destroyed by the Democrat party. Republicans worked tirelessly for months to keep Merrick Garland off of the Court. This is not the Founding Father’s vision for our beautiful country.
The reason Supreme Court confirmations have become so treacherous is because politicians understand the unspeakable power of the Court.
The Supreme Court has single-handedly changed American culture several times, and altered the history of our nation even more. Cases like Dred Scott v. Sandford, Brown v. Board of Education, Roe v. Wade, and Bush v. Gore have reshaped American lives and redirected the course of history.
In order to restore justice to our courts, the Executive and Legislative branches must select judges and justices based solely on legal abilities and not partisan principles.
The U.S. Constitution states that the three branches of government should protect the general welfare of the United States of America. Focusing exclusively on political agendas and accumulation of power usually does not promote the overall well-being of our country.
It is also the responsibility of the people to elect capable candidates to represent them. In order to make an educated decision when voting, citizens should stay informed. This is a simple task which many young people are not fulfilling.
Uneducated voters allowed unqualified people to gain an office. The results are catastrophic: political hoaxes, destruction of Supreme Court nominees’ reputations, poor trade deals, apology tours, abuses of power, and many other calamities.
Elected officials have a responsibility to respect and honor the precepts afforded to them by the Constitution, but American citizens also have a responsibility to elect people who are not prone to avariciousness.
About the author: Callahan Burton is a 17 year old patriot that is destined to bring radical change to America. His enthusiasm and love for our great nation was evident to John Di Lemme, founder of the Conservative Business Journal, when John spoke to a group of entrepreneur and marketing students at King’s Academy. Callahan will be a regular contributor for the Conservative Business Journal.